The campaign against HS2 is in full swing, with Hillingdon Council backing residents of Ruislip, Ickenham and Harefield in their opposition to the proposal. The first in a series of public meetings was held at Ruislip High School on Thursday (December 2) with nearly 500 people attending. Reporter James Cracknell was one of them.
THIS year has been bittersweet for Hillingdon Council and its leader, Councillor Ray Puddifoot.
Shortly before the decade-long battle against the third runway at Heathrow Airport was won, the government was announcing that a new high-speed rail line would whiz through Ruislip on its way to Birmingham.
It has taken nine months for the council to investigate how this new line may affect the borough's residents, but now that it has, it's stance couldn't be firmer.
"We don't think it will bring any benefits – environmentally, economically or socially," Mr Puddifoot (pictured) told a packed meeting of residents at Ruislip High School on Thursday (Deember 2).
"It will not even stop in the borough, so it will only bring adverse affects, during construction and afterwards. The council is opposed to the High Speed Two (HS2) route and we will resist it robustly."
It was news that residents were relieved to hear, but some of what the council had to say about how the route might affect them was difficult to stomach.
Jales Tippell, head of transportation and planning policy, said she had walked along the proposed route herself and suggested that the line, if it were twin-track, would need as much as 75 metres of extra space to the north of the existing Chiltern Line.
Because the trains travel so fast, she explained, their turbulence is enough to derail other trains if they are not positioned far enough away.
Ms Tippell said: "It may result in the loss of part or all of the waste transfer station in Victoria Road."
But there was worse news for residents in Bridgewater Road, Roundways, Lawn Close, Almond Close, Bell Close, Herlwyn Avenue and Blenheim Crescent. "These dwellings are at risk," she said.
New or replacement bridges would be needed over Station Approach, Bridgewater Road, West End Road, Breakspear Road and Harvil Road. A two-mile viaduct would stride across Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre, rendering the facility unusable in its current form.
Dozens of questions were fielded at the meeting from concerned residents, including one from Sid Jackson, of South Ruislip Residents' Association, who queried the support of two local MPs who were part of the same government proposing the route.
Mr Puddifoot countered: "They [Nick Hurd and John Randall] haven't said they support this route, they have said they support high-speed rail but they haven't said anything on this route.
"But I will be inviting them to the next meeting and once the government has made an announcement they will be able to say more."
Rose Stevens queried why the line was even needed. "Who came up with the idea that there would need to be that many people wanting to go non-stop from London to Birmingham?"
Mr Puddifoot responded: "The business case is the easiest to push over. The first high-speed line had a 60-year payback period. It makes no sense."
Jean Ward, of Herlwyn Avenue, asked where the trains would stop. The answer from the council leader drew derisory laughter.
"You will have to go chuntering into London and then come back whizzing past your house!"
Earlier the same day, Mr Puddifoot had joined up with 12 other council leaders to quiz transport secretary Phillip Hammond. "I was quite blunt with him," he said.
"I made him aware that we will take him on."
After winning the battle of the third runway, Mr Puddifoot said the council were well prepared for another long campaign.
Councillor Douglas Mills (Manor, Conservative), whose house is one of those threatened with demolition, echoed the thought.
"We have the experience, we have the determination, we have the quality of professional support that will enable us to be a strong voice."
March 2009: Government ask HS2 Ltd to draw up proposals;
March 2010: Y-Shaped high-speed network including preferred route through Hillingdon announced;
May 2010: New coalition government formed and confirm support for HS2;
June 2010: Government asks HS2 Ltd to look at options for Heathrow and HS1 links;
August 2010: Department for Transport launch Exceptional Hardship Scheme for homeowners blighted by announcement of route;
October 2010: Government asks HS2 Ltd to propose a route;
December 2010: Government due to announce chosen route;
February 2011: Public consultation due to start, lasting five months;
December 2011: Government response to consultation, possible amendments to route;
2015: Hybrid government bill to pass through parliament for HS2 proposal to become law;
2015-2025: Construction work on the London–West Midlands route;
2025-2035: Construction work on a West Midlands–north of England route;
- High-speed trains travel at up to 250mph;
- They would be 400m long and carry 1,100 passengers each;
- Twin-track lines require up to 75 metres of width because of the trains' turbulence;
- Estimates for the cost of HS2 range between £17billion and £34billion.
AT RISK IN HILLINGDON:
- Victoria Road Waste Transfer Station;
- Sainsbury's supermarket, Victoria Road;
- Homes in Bridgewater Road;
- Ruislip High School playing fields;
- Homes in Roundways, Lawn Close, Almond Close, Bell Close;
- Homes in Herlwyn Avenue;
- Homes in Blenheim Crescent;
- Blenheim Care Centre;
- Ruislip Golf Course;
- Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre.
- Hillingdon Borough Council;
- Staffordshire County Council;
- Warwickshire County Council;
- Northamptonshire County Council;
- Buckinghamshire County Council;
- Chiltern District Council;
- Litchfield District Council;
- North Warwickshire District Council;
- Stratford-on-Avon District Council;
- Warwick District Council;
- South Northamptonshire Council;
- Cherwell District Council;
- Aylesbury Vale District Council;
- Wycombe District Council.